Conference Program
Paper Title: Artists as Entrepreneurs: Insights from Immigrant Artists in the U.S.
Despite heated rhetoric about immigrants and immigration in the United States, there is a general consensus about the significance of immigrants for the U.S. economy. Though some anti-immigrant voices deride it, foreign born workers are critical at both the low skill and high skill ends of the U.S. labor force. One area where a particularly strong impact of foreign born workers may be seen is among the self-employed. Immigrants to the U.S. make up close to 13% of the population, but they constitute 16% of all employed persons and just over 20% of the self-employed (American Community Survey, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010-2014 5-years Sample).
Harvard Business School Professor Thomas R. Eisenmann specifically describes entrepreneurs as “innovative, flexible, dynamic, risk taking, creative, and growth oriented.” While not all self-employed individuals are necessarily entrepreneurs, self-employment as compared to working for others is the best measure of entrepreneurship found in official statistics. The central premise of this paper is that these same terms equally characterize the work of artists and the lives of immigrants. While academics and the public often associate immigrants with entrepreneurship, we focus specifically on artists because their work is often considered outside the realm of the market. We disagree. However, when thinking about immigrant artists as entrepreneurs our aim is not intended to come up with a business model for the arts. Rather, our primary emphasis rests with how those interested in entrepreneurship more generally can learn from the entrepreneurial outlook of immigrant artists whose work creates value for themselves and the communities in which they live. In this paper we bring together three strands of research. The first is further statistical analysis of the 2010-2014; a 5 year Sample from the American Community Survey (ACS). With survey data on over 15 million Americans the ACS is the premier source of official statistics. These analyses will profile self-employed immigrant artists in the U.S. For example, looking at all arts occupations, 28% of the artists in the U.S. are self-employed. Our analysis will isolate those who are foreign born and capture the demographic profile of these individuals. The second source of data for this paper examines our hypothesis that there is considerable overlap in the characteristics used to describe artists, immigrants and entrepreneurs. Survey respondents recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform will be presented with a list of adjectives used to describe people and then asked to select which of these they would use to characterize successful artists, immigrants and entrepreneurs. Findings from these first two sources will inform a series of qualitative interviews of immigrant artists working in the Washington D.C. area. These interviews will then make up our third source of data for the paper. Findings from all three sources of data will then be brought together in the discussion section of the paper. The aim there will be to determine what patterns are present in the statistical profiles, verbal descriptions and first-hand accounts of immigrant artists that can be used to better understand the entrepreneurial outlook that is increasingly important in today’s economy.




Dr Asfia Obaid
Conference Convener
Tel: 00-92-51-90853201

Mr Kashir Asghar
Conference Coordinator
Tel: 00-92-51-90853100